When it comes to predicting technological breakthroughs, science fiction writers can be absolute visionaries. From the electrically powered submarine in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), to the genetic engineering in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931), science fiction has foretold countless scientific advances, including smartphones, touchscreen tablets, LCD televisions, GPS, virtual reality games, artificial intelligence, nuclear power, credit cards, escalators, waterbeds, even robotic vacuum cleaners!
But sadly, some potentially civilization-changing sci-fi prophecies have not yet come to fruition. Here are the 5 that I most wish had become reality:
While the concept of teleportation has been a staple in science fiction storylines for decades (van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, Langelaan’s The Fly, Niven’s Ringworld, etc.), scientists still haven’t figured out how to almost instantaneously transport matter from one place to another. Can you imagine if this became a reality? Conventional transportation would become obsolete! Think about all the time you’ve wasted stuck in traffic. And how about taking vacations? In the blink of an eye, you could be on a beach anywhere in the world, sipping on a piña colada!
Limb and organ regeneration
Orson Scott Card’s 1978 classic A Planet Called Treason is set on a remote world populated by the offspring of political exiles and rebels—and certain people have the ability to re-grow lost flesh, while others are forever growing spare body parts. If humankind could understand and utilize this miraculous trait, so many people could be given a new lease on life!
In James L. Halperin’s The First Immortal, the advance of nanotechnology and cryogenics make the ability to live forever—physically young and in supreme health—possible. It’s a complicated decision, however: while I would absolutely agree to have my body parts repaired and upgraded, living forever may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. You would be forced to watch loved ones who decided not to undergo the treatment grow old and die, and after a few centuries, it seems like the sense of loneliness would become unbearable.
The subject for many a science fiction novel (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, etc.), creating a biosphere on Mars that supports human life would be a monumental achievement—and could be the first step to humankind’s colonizing the stars.
In many science fiction novels (like Thea Alexander’s 2150 AD), humans in the far future have developed advanced mind powers—telekinesis, the ability to read minds and to communicate psychically—but, like immortality, this advancement comes with a price. Do I really want to know what the guy next to me on the subway is thinking? Do I really want my wife to be able to read my mind when she asks me how much I liked her attempt to make bread pudding? Many a relationship would go down in flames if we were a race of mind-readers. Just saying.
So, while humankind may never achieve these lofty futuristic visions, we can take comfort in the fact that we have literally dozens of different robotic vacuum cleaners to help make our domiciles cleaner and our lives easier. (At least, until they revolt, conquer us, and become our overlords.)
What sci-fi prophesy do you most wish had come true?